Bill Nye ain't no science guy

Bill Nye took his act to MSNBC over the weekend.  His latest pseudo-science screed was aimed at anti-vaxxers, Tucker Carlson, and rascally conservatives.  There must have been some package deal to get a three-for-one.  Perhaps Nye's shtick is running on bald tires, and the left-of-Pravda network was the only place he could find airtime.  Regardless, his diatribe had so many holes that it needed an "under construction" sign. 

In a nutshell, Nye stated that it is reasonable to demand that Americans be required to take the COVID vaccine.  He rested his statist claim on a specious presentation of false equivalences.  It seemed as if he would break his arm, patting himself on the back for such a "slam dunk."  In typical Bill Nye fashion, his smugness, no doubt, beguiled the MSNBC audience and obscured his ignorance of logic. 

Nye's conclusion was the product of a series of logical fallacies.  In less than four minutes of airtime, "The Science Guy" made eight unforced errors in a feeble attempt at crafting a pro-vaccine argument on Mehdi Hasan's show.  By any measure, that's impressive.  He could give Joe Biden a run for his money.

The-not-so-science guy began the blooper reel with a bandwagon appeal.  He moaned that Americans "should get the vaccine because everyone else is getting it and you don't want to be left out."  Only seconds later, Nye offered an appeal to authority with platitudes to the hypothetical "rational person," while shunning the "anti-science" crowd.  Then, less than a minute into his public service announcement, "Professor" Bill threw down a burden-of-proof claim by comparing the "settled" science on the vaccine to the Earth revolving around the sun.

Three blunders from any guest over any length of an interview are enough to discredit the entire segment.  Nye delivered his trifecta in under one minute.  Doubling down on his own lack of bona fides, he went on to make an ad hominem attack, straw man fallacy, slippery slope argument, and tu quoque reference to "fairness" over the next three minutes.  The entire segment — set up by Hassan — reeked of card-stacking with only preferred data presented.

The easiest of Nye's fallacies to refute is his straw man claim.  He offered two examples: the well-worn trope of yelling "fire" in a theater and driving on the wrong side of the street even though citizens are taxed for both sides of the road.  Mehdi feverishly nodded as Bill ramped up his sermon.  At issue, though, both examples speak to an abuse of a right or privilege after the fact and not a prohibition of that right.  Abusing or misusing a right results in ex post facto consequences.  Denying an individual the means or opportunity even to exercise a right is an ex ante proscription.

Consequences for abuse of a right and denial of that right beforehand could not be farther apart in comparison.  Does Mr. Nye assume that because yelling "fire" in a theater when there is none carries consequences, it somehow removes the word from moviegoers' memories as they enter the theater?  Or will drivers never cross over a solid yellow line because doing so is illegal and dangerous?  Most importantly, what does either ex post facto examples have to do with an individual's right to choose whether he wants to be vaccinated?

Perhaps this is what should be expected of a hack like Bill Nye.  On an individual level, congratulations to him for discovering a way to monetize his persona.  He's more affluent and famous than most Americans — he's even a guest on MSNBC.  Sadly, the man is no scientist. 

To be clear, Nye is an intelligent man.  He has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Cornell University.  He invented a part for Boeing 747 jumbo jets.  He also holds three patents.  None of that qualifies him as an expert on COVID, public safety protocols, or — clearly — logic.  It is disappointing to consider that a former stand-up comic and television personality who happened to take some science classes in college is the recognized "expert" on the pandemic's vaccines.

For the record, there is nothing remotely wrong with having more or less education than anyone else.  As long as an individual can find work and provide for his family, it's nobody else's business how far he goes in school.  At the same time, when a legacy media network trots out an individual as an authoritative source on a particular topic, it would be wise to find an expert in the field.  A bachelor's degree is generally considered sufficient to provide a professional level of knowledge on a topic; a master's degree offers expertise on the subject.  A doctorate makes a person the expert on the issue.  Why MSNBC elected to impanel such a thinly credentialed figure as the end-all source will remain a mystery for the oracle. 

Bill Nye might be a lot of things.  After Sunday's interview, a few can be crossed off the list.  He's no expert on COVID — or constitutional history, for that matter.  After all, he doesn't seem to know that our rights haven't been abrogated yet.  He's not a great off-the-cuff speaker.  Logic is kryptonite to him.  Mostly, he ain't no science guy.

Image: MSNBC via YouTube.

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